Update: Ed Buck has been sentenced.
When I woke up and read the news last week, I felt something I hadn’t felt in a long time — anger. Not just any anger, but the type of anger that comes from trauma, from violence.
On January 7, a black man, Timothy Dean, 55, was found dead in the West Hollywood apartment of Ed Buck, a 64-year-old, longtime, and once prominent, Democratic Party donor.
Buck is a one-time West Hollywood City Council candidate and well-known figure in LGBTQ political circles. In the past, Buck has donated money to President Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, former state Sen. Kevin de León, West Hollywood city council candidates, and numerous other politicians.
2 DEATHS IN ED BUCK’S HOME
Dean is the second black man to die in Buck’s apartment in 18 months.
In July 2017, 26-year-old Gemmel Moore died in Buck’s apartment of an accidental methamphetamine overdose, according to a Los Angeles County Coroner’s report. Buck’s Laurel Avenue residence was littered with drug paraphernalia, according to the report, but Buck was never taken in for questioning. The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office this summer declined to file charges against Buck.
The coroner’s office has not yet released its findings on Dean’s death. Buck’s attorney, Seymour Amster; however, has told the media that Dean, an “old friend” of Buck’s, arrived at Buck’s apartment high on drugs and died a short time later of an apparent overdose. Dean’s friends say that Dean is not being portrayed fairly.
Activists, who have been following the cases and protesting outside Buck’s West Hollywood apartment, have called these deaths a pattern. Jasmyne Cannick, a writer and political consultant who has advocated for Moore’s family and been investigating Buck since Moore’s death, published pages from Moore’s personal journal that document Buck’s relationship with the vulnerable young man.
Cannick also has said that Buck has a “Tuskegee Experiment-like fetish,” which involves finding young, vulnerable black men, drugging them, and injecting meth into them for Buck’s sexual pleasure.
I’M NOT A SEXUAL OBJECT
As the news poured in over the week, I could feel that anger boiling inside me. I had to face this anger head-on after my own sexual assault. Being raped took away my self-worth as a human. It’s taken time to reclaim that worth, to re-learn that I am a person, a black man, and that by itself gives me value.
I’m not an object someone can pick apart for their sexual gratification.
But finding that self-worth as a gay black man is not easy, and it’s even harder when you’re further marginalized by society. These men are the men Buck has preyed on. They are not only gay and black, but also vulnerable, such as homeless or sex workers that he finds on gay dating websites, Cannick has said.
IT’S ABOUT RACE
Buck’s attorney, Amster, told the Los Angeles Times last week that he wants us to stop talking about race because this isn’t a race issue. But how can it not be?
Buck saw these men, all gay and black, and used them as objects for his enjoyment. Their blackness signaled to Buck that these were men he could take advantage of because other people wouldn’t care what happened to them.
The investigation into Dean’s death has just started. Hopefully, he and Moore receive the justice that could not protect them in this lifetime.
I hope the fight for justice stirs something in us that reminds us why we fight, why we advocate for survivors, and why we refuse to let anyone see us as less than human.
I’M NOT GIVING UP
Sexual violence, whether you’re black, a woman, queer, homeless, HIV positive, a sex worker, or an addict, is not acceptable. Buck is just the latest example in a long line of predators. If he is found guilty, it will be a victory, but it will not be the end of the fight.
Creating a world where sexual violence against all types of bodies is taken seriously is not a quick battle, but I’m sure as hell not giving up.
Follow Zeke Thomas on Instagram and listen to “Dealin With It” on Soundcloud.